After driving the Caldor Fire east through the Sierra Nevada at high elevations for several days, strong winds eventually died and thousands fled. Officials said that only very small gusts were possible and that the forest was extremely dry, despite the slight increase in humidity in the fire zone.
Jim Dudley, fire incident meteorologist, stated that "we lost the winds aloft." It's a good day today not to have gusty winds up the ridges. Terrain-driven winds are what we will have as the sun heats up the ground.
Caldor Fire covered more than 328 miles (849 kilometers) and was contained at 25% by Thursday morning. Its northeast tip was located just south of South Lake Tahoe. Near the California state line with Nevada is where a casino district and hotel district are situated. Housing developments extend into the forest.
Firefighters from all over the country joined the fight against the flames that broke out on August 14.
Officials reported that 622 houses, 12 commercial properties, and 177 minor structures had been destroyed as of Thursday. However, the total is incomplete since many areas where they were burned are unsafe for counting.
Scientists have confirmed that climate change has made the West warmer and dryer over the past 30 year. They also predict that it will continue to make the weather extremer and wildfires more destructive and unpredictable.
Firefighters used Heavenly Mountain Resort as a staging area. It is the largest ski area in Lake Tahoe. Firefighters also used the resort's big guns, snow-making equipment that was being used to water down buildings.
According to authorities, one spur of fire was located 3 miles (5 km) south of South Lake Tahoe. This lake has a normal population of over 20,000, but was largely evacuated. It was headed northeast towards the California-Nevada state border, authorities stated.
Crews tried to keep the flames from urban areas, where many houses are close together and shops, hotels, and other structures could be a source of fuel.
The thick smoke has engulfed South Lake Tahoe, where tourists are usually swarming to celebrate the end of summer as well as the coming Labor Day weekend.
After the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe closed its casinos and stores on Wednesday morning, evacuate holdouts without cars waited outside Montbleu resort in Stateline, hoping for a bus to get them to Reno.
Kevin O'Connell was a South Lake Tahoe resident and disabled plumber who wore ski goggles to protect him from the blowing ash. However, he discovered that Stateline had shut down all of its stores.
"I called 911 to tell them that I needed to get out of this place. I don't have food or cigarettes, and I am disabled. Within a few hours, the police arrived at my home and took me to safety," he stated.